Friday, February 20, 2015

A Death Anniversary Remembrance for Dana Meadows in 2015

February 20th , today, is Dana Meadows death anniversary.  She died on February 20th, 2001.  She was 59 years old.  For several years, and again today, I have chosen to write a brief death anniversary remembrance and acknowledgement.  This is not because I claim, or would want anyone to believe that I claim, some special status among the many persons who respected, loved, admired and, on occasion, collaborated with Dana.  I do not.

In choosing a death anniversary quotation from Dana’s work, I have often turned to her writings about love.  Dana understood what it meant to love, more deeply and unselfishly than anyone I have known.  It was reflected in her Global Citizen columns and even in her more “scholarly” writings.  However her writings on computer modeling, environmental science, sustainability, ethics, epistemology and public policy were equally clear and profound. 

In this remembrance I quote from her writing on epistemology.  The source is Chapter 1 of a remarkable, yet unpublished, 927pp.  manuscript entitled,  A Sustainable World: An Introduction to Environmental Systems.  It was made available to me through the kindness of Marta Ceroni, who directs the Donella Meadows Institute (formerly the Sustainability Institute).  The Chapter is entitled “Thinking about Thinking:  What Have We Learned About What  We Know.”   Dana writes

“We hope you will see that learning about the planet is not just a process of pouring into yourself a lot of facts that someone else already knows (though there will be some of that to do).  It's a process of making models, testing them, making more models, testing them again, examining yourself and your own biases as well as those of other people, and sometimes, suddenly, seeing the world in startling new ways. …The problems of our world – and their solutions are a direct function of what we think, what we know, and the certainty with which we know it. 

“…Unfortunately we know less about how to work our planet than we do about our cars.  We are not familiar with its levers and buttons.  We barely comprehend what is attached to what.  We don't always recognize when it is malfunctioning, and the people we turn it over to -- politicians, generals, corporate executives, other kinds of leaders -- are not selected for their knowledge of planetary mechanics.  There could be a breakdown.  Some say it's already here.  If a breakdown occurs, there isn't another planet handy to take over the vital services we get from this one.

“…What [this] book can do is be a foundation, and more importantly a guide to the process of learning about, thinking about, coping with, and acting effectively upon planetary problems. 

“… Every time you read the paper or watch the evening news, get involved in your community's planning process, go on a Saturday bird-watching expedition, plant a garden, or travel to a new place, you have an opportunity to learn more about the planetary systems that support you -- and to become more effective in acting to keep those systems healthy and sustainable.”

As far as I know, Dana was never a “religious” person, however she was a deeply spiritual one.  For a time, I know that she studied Buddhist philosophy and set time aside for meditation, mostly following Zen Buddhist practices.  Thus it seems appropriate to end this reflection, on Dana’s behalf, with a prayer that is sometimes included in Buddhist death anniversary remembrances:

“May all be free from sorrow and the causes of sorrow.

May all never be separated from the sacred happiness which is sorrowless.”

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Anonymous Tony said...

Hi John, how are you recently? Change is getting faster and more intense. Take care.

Best regards,
It's good as long as not over-. • Moderation • balance

3:31 AM  

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